Please read the previous post from this Examiner regarding beers on nitro taps. That information will be critical to understanding this post.
When beer geeks find their favorite beer served on a nitro tap, they squeal with nerdish delight. They behave as if they are comic book collectors that have found a first edition copy of their favorite hero’s initial appearance, Star Wars fans who have come across the elusive Holiday Special, or video gamers that have discovered the invincibility code. This is for good reason; nitro turns a favorite beer into a super-favorite, ambrosia of the gods, sublimely delicious elixir with which no other beer can contend.
Then again, perhaps that is just the nerdiness of the knotmove.coming through. How good is a nitro beer, really? The only way to tell for sure is to have the same beer back-to-back: one from a nitro tap and another not.
For this experiment, Left Hand Brewing Company’s Milk Stout (6% ABV) will be the test subject. One pint was served from a bottle, the other on a nitro tap.
Color: From the bottle, Milk Stout has a black body with barely perceptible brown highlights. The head is tanned and is bubbly, fizzy, and quick to dissipate. On nitro, the bubbles in the head are much smaller and compacted. It is noticeably thicker and much less effervescent. The head is so thick that the drinker can practically sculpt with it. If one were to touch the foam of a bottled Milk Stout, the oil from one’s skin would quickly make it dissolve. The head of a nitro beer stands strong and refuses to disappear. As one drinks a nitro version, the foam leaves rings around the glass, marking the previous level of the liquid. It is a timeline of the beer’s lifespan, like counting rings on a fallen tree.
Aroma: Milk Stout smells of rich, dark chocolate. Unlike many other types of stouts, Milk Stout does not have a roasted or coffee-like aroma. No, it is just pure, sweet chocolate. The aroma remains the same from bottle to nitro tap.
Taste: Like the aroma, Milk Stout is all about that sweet dark chocolate taste without so much as a hint of roasty, coffee flavor. There is no hop bitterness, either. Milk Stout is liquefied candy for adults. It is creamy and (unsurprisingly, due to its name) milky and downright delicious. After some time, there is a little bit of bitterness but it is a bitterness more akin with that of eating a bar of dark chocolate rather than the bitterness of hops or black coffee. Bottled or nitro’d, the flavor remains unchanged.
Mouthfeel: Milk Stout in a bottle is not as full-bodied as a stout ought to be. It isn’t thin by any means but it could definitely do well with a bit more density. This density can be achieved through a nitro tap. On nitro, Milk Stout is thick, creamy, and it coats the whole mouth like a milk shake. One doesn’t drink a nitro Milk Stout, one eats it. Milk Stout, regardless of the way it is served, leaves the mouth wet and the drinker with the desire to spit because of intense saliva build-up.
The verdict? If one is a beer geek with a meticulous palate then nitro versus non-nitro is as disparate as Citizen Kane is to Dumb & Dumber: both good in their own right but, let’s face it, one will always be the better choice and the other will continue to live out its glory days on college campuses. For the non-scrutinizing drinker, the difference is like that of Armageddon and Deep Impact: pretty much the same stuff.
Milk Stout in a bottle is available in nearly all Denver liquor stores. Milk Stout on nitro is available at D Note in Olde Town Arvada.